When we first moved to the home on our homestead we were on the fence about purchasing a wood stove.
On the one hand we liked the idea of being able to heat with wood, and the warm atmosphere a fireplace provided.
On the other hand, wood stoves are expensive. They take up space, space that for us at least, is tight already. I was also, believe it or not, afraid of them. I could see us burning down the house the first time we used it.
After discussing the situation back and forth for thirteen months, looking at the situation from every angle, we finally decided to take the plunge. Our new wood burning stove was installed last week.
The process while rewarding, was initially intimidating. We knew nothing about selecting, installing, or using a wood stove.
If you are in the same boat, or expect to find yourself there soon, here are a few things that we learned through the process that might help you along.
Do you need a wood stove? We have a well insulated home and the first year we lived here, we heated it very efficiently with propane. We didn’t really see a need.
Then we experienced a propane shortage nearly doubling the cost per gallon and our bills were higher than we had ever anticipated.
We also had two major ice storms threatening power outages. One can have a propane furnace, but if the starter is electric, what good will it do you?
The cost of propane and the need for a reliable heat source were the two major factors that led us to the decision of buying a stove.
What does your situation look like? Perhaps you are in a location where you don’t have harsh winters and power outages due to ice storms are unlikely to happen. Perhaps your home is heated efficiently and economically with electricity.
Before taking a look at stoves, look at your current situation and ask yourself how often you would actually use one.
We found that one could, believe it or not, order online and have one delivered. Places such as Lehman’s offer such products and services. Our concern there was our lack of know~how and experience with wood stoves. We didn’t really know what we needed or how it should be installed.
I could see us ordering a very expensive, (and heavy) cast iron stove; only to have it delivered and discover we had ordered the wrong thing.
We decided instead to locate a local dealer and go shopping. While there are many brands on the market such as Napoleon, Jotul, and Vermont Castings; we decided to choose a dealer with good customer service and go from there.
When the first call to the Vermont Castings dealer resulted in many long silent pauses, and “…….huh. I don’t knows…” in response to our questions over the phone, we decided to go with the more informative store that carried the Napoleon stove. They were also getting ready to launch a winter sale.
Having been through the process of building our home, I knew how these things tended to go. Contractors and, often times, sales clerks don’t think to break down what is for them, every day language into simple terms a housewife can understand. I had a lot of concerns about bringing a large, expensive firebox into my home and cutting a hole in the ceiling. I wanted to know:
Where should we place it?
We learned that it did not need to go against an outside wall as we had originally thought. It could go within the house but the closer it was to the downward slope of the roof, the less extra pipe would be required for the chimney and therefore, less expense at installation.
Can it go directly on the cement floor?
We have cement flooring throughout our home (come back Saturday for the pros and cons of cement flooring) and I was wondering if we’d need a pad like the ones I had seen in most of the pictures of wood stoves. I learned that the pad was only necessary if the flooring underneath was of a combustible material such as wood or carpet. Unless we wanted one for aesthetic reasons, and I didn’t, we were good.
Do we need something installed to protect the wall behind it?
This was another concern. We have standard sheetrock walls in our home. Unless it was absolutely necessary, I really didn’t want to go to the expense of tiling my walls behind the stove. We were told that as long as the stove was the proper distance from the walls, no further protection was necessary.
Are you really going to cut a hole through the ceiling for the stove pipe?
This sounds silly, but yes, I was worried about having a hole put in my ceiling. There obviously is no other way of getting the pipe from the stove to the outside for proper ventilation. The pipe is however, properly insulated, and the insulation in our attic is not combustible, so apart from having a hole in my perfect green roof, there was no concern about fire.
Who do we get to install it?
While stoves do come with installation instructions, there are contractors who will install your stove for you. Ours was recommended by the dealer, and for a separate fee, installed our stove. He did run a tight schedule and getting on his agenda required a four week wait. It was worth it to us. We made the appointment, he picked up the stove, additional materials, and was able to work out some details that didn’t quite go according to plan. Which brings me to my next point:
I had in my mind where I wanted the stove to go. I had mentally rearranged the room to accommodate it. When the installer arrived, he took one look at my Plan A and shook his head. I unknowingly had the stove positioned in such a fashion that it would be directly under an air duct, leaving no space for the cap at the top.
We had to resort to a Plan B which was another room altogether.
Once I managed my disappointment (and had mentally rearranged the furniture in that room), we learned that the dealer had not sent the proper materials. They included a roof kit with the stove just assuming that we had a shingle roof. We told them we lived in a metal sided home with a metal roof, but somehow this “minor” detail didn’t stick. This required an additional trip into town by the installer, dragging the installation out for several hours and costing us additional $$ we didn’t expect. There was nothing that could be done about it ~ it was just one of those things.
An enamel coated cast iron wood burning stove by Napoleon.
The top flips up to allow for cooking should the need arise. This past weekend the temps dropped significantly, and we were even treated to a major ice storm. This gave us the opportunity to spend many long hours in front of the fire enjoying our new toy. We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of heat it gave off and managed to get through the early spring storm without the furnace.